Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a fascinating piece of literature. Breaking it down to its characters and plot it is a wild ride leaving the reader with many open-ended questions. This is not only in its conclusion but throughout the whole book. Mr. MacKnight says, ‘Good books don’t give answers they raise questions’, however, I believe Hardy took that too literally. Examples include Aleck disappearing forever and then finally reappearing in the end; what was he doing? The thoughts of the characters are never really shown and when they are they aren’t very explored. There are many more examples throughout the book. My way of understanding and rationalizing this way of writing instead of passing it off as a poorly written text is that as we discussed life was far slower in Hardy’s time. Readers not only got the story in installments but also had nothing else to do meaning they could basically write the story for themselves leading to more interaction with the story as a whole. Whether this is the case or not I believe that the writing in Tess is ‘outdated’. Instead of feeling more engaged with the questions and lead-offs in the book I felt ‘out of the know’ leading me to misunderstand many parts of the book because I only had a shallow engagement. While the story was one of great excitement, I found the writing to be so dull (for lack of a more polite word) it made me bored.
A side note to this paragraph after watching the movie is there is somewhat of a noticeable change but not always. Some scenes are as slow and boring as the book, my favourite example being when they show Angel walking all the way across the water 4 times to carry each girl across while the others wait and watch. This made me really bored and really reflected how I felt reading the book. An example where the movie was a bit quicker leading to a more enjoyable experience was how the tragic events of Tess happened in such rapid succession it was almost comical. Angel leaving, Tess gets harassed by a weird guy who she finds out she works for, she prays at a cursed site, her boots get ‘stolen’. This is shown in the book over a long enough period of time that the reader begins to forget about the event and they don’t stack on top of each other creating a, in my opinion, better effect. The entirety of these last two paragraphs could be a product of my new-age over-stimulation, but even if that is the case it only makes Tess more outdated.
Although I actually enjoyed Tess despite what my personal response sounds like there is another ‘issue’ I encountered. My upbringing is a pretty standard high-middle-class globalized life, I don’t have extensive knowledge or ties to Christianity or other concepts of the time. This made much of the symbolism alien to me and without the Google or Mr. MacKnight, I wouldn’t get half of what is referenced in the book. The setting was also very Alien to me but the lack of context did nothing to help. The very fact that it was necessary for Mr. MacKnight to add on things of context just so we wouldn’t be lost supports my points. In other texts we read even though the scene is foreign to me I still feel closer to it because of the context provided by the author. Books like Candide set each scene perfectly helping me to understand the book, while a book like A Doll’s House doesn’t have much to do with its setting so only what is needed is given. Tess has a mix of relying on the setting, yet not providing context. This problem again ties back to the outdatedness which I believe is undeniable.
One thing I found amusing more than anything was the lack of a “message”. I find this funny because readers almost always search for a message or some other form of philosophical construct hidden in the text. With Tess things kind of just happen. This lack of apparent message creates an ironic amount of smaller messages that can be picked out by readers. Marriage scandals, love versus marriage, men and women, and the list goes on. I know that books “don’t have messages”, but finding them in Tess is far too easy for a book that relies on the reader to write half the story.
I didn’t proof read this 🙂
Although not entirely the same my religious background is vaguely similar to that of Rushdie. My grandparents on my Dad’s side are Christian, however, my Dad has not practiced in many years. This has resulted in me growing up in an almost religion free household. The context of this is of course different because outside of my family I also live in a far less religious setting than Rushdie. Rushdie discusses how this affected his lack of faith which shows in all his writing, however, I feel like the opposite has happened for me. Where I practice Christianity when and where I can. As I have not read any of his works and am also less familiar with Islamic culture I don’t know what to think and don’t want to offend anyone so no comment. His voice is very seductive though.
Slaughter House Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, has been the most engaging piece we have looked at to this point. It is engaging because it directly prompts questions from the reader. Other texts may raise questions on a deep philosophical and almost discrete level, but in order to ‘understand’ the text questions are necessary. This engagement and questions start before you even open the book with a name of slaughter house five, which can be taken as “its a book about butchery” or to think what metaphor this could suggest. The questions continue in chapter one, which we question as even a chapter instead of an introduction. And continuously throughout the book when we see Vonnegut appear out of nowhere to speak in first person as the author. I have a theory that many of the questions we ask have no answer. If Vonnegut was asked why chapter one was an introduction or mostly any of there other questions in the book his response would be ‘there is no why, it just is’. Something I realized a bit too late in the book after attempting to over analyze it. So, to conclude, while the questions this book raises are engaging that is their only purpose as they have no answers.
Another enjoyable part of Slaughter House Five is the unique use of dramatic irony which also has the effect of making Billy seem like a reader. As hard as we try we cannot influence anything that happens in the book. From Billy we know many things in the future (ex. people he knows, as well as himself dying) but like Billy we can do noting about it. It is almost enlightening to see this perspective as although it is not one I hold many things about it lined up nicely with the book.
On a non-analytical note Slaughter House Five has been my favourite English Class book so far due to the reasons I outlined previously, the low diction which gives an Orwellian feel to read, and the ‘Black Humour’ which often got a genuine laugh from me.
Byerman’s analysis needed some work. With jumbled arguments and no clear goal, his report appeared fraudulent, as if he himself didn’t know what he was arguing. He consistently took parts of the text and over analyzed their significance, sometimes even changing the plot entirely so his argument would fit. For example, when he talks about Nettie leaving after Mr.____ attempts to rape her, which is untrue, it makes that argument flimsy. Furthermore, the oscillation between the use of Sofie instead of Sofia is a clear sign that his essay was either poorly produced with little editing, or he is clueless and he wasted his time and ours. The points he attempted to make were interesting (eg. the fairytale) but even after reading the book I fail to see any connection. I’m glad I read this after otherwise I would be very confused what messages to look for.
Reading Orwell’s writing makes me feel like I’ve known him personally for a long time. His low diction and register make his writing available for anyone to read and gives the reader a sense of relatability to his life, even if it’s not half as extreme. I constantly found myself relating to either there characters in Orwell’s stories, or the narrative opinion (his thoughts). For example, in The Spike I got a very relatable feeling of not being able to bring valuables into an area for risk of them being stolen. Similarly I had another relatable feeling when reading How the Poor Die I felt a sense of relatability to Orwell as he watched the other patients treated as less than human. I see similar things when I am downtown Victoria and see people treat the homeless population the same way. This relatable style of writing is extremely efficient in having the reader connect to your writing and is one of the reasons Orwell’s pieces so prolific.
Writing the DRJs I also learnt somethings. As these were my first DRJs after doing the Oral I felt like I was better equipped and understood how to properly analyze the texts. In some instances I struggled finding points to make in some of the boxes, but in others I was overwhelmed with how much I found. The areas I feel very strong writing about are Imagery, Structure/Organization, and Diction/Register. I feel strong in these areas because they are the categories that leave a bigger impression on me meaning I am more likely to notice them. The areas I wish to improve are Sound Effects, and Tone. I am typically able to hear the tone of a story, yet I struggle finding evidence to support my claims. In terms of sound effects I found out only recently from Mr. MacKnight’s group feedback that I hadn’t been doing this section properly, I would focus on sound imagery more than the sound effects like we were supposed to.
Reading Wheatcroft’s tribute to Orwell helped me understand just how good of a writer Orwell really was. It felt like my thoughts on Orwell were explained further using evidence and it really helps the average reader understand why Orwell does prevail.
The thing I will remember the most from DP1 English Lit is struggling to complete the tasks I got. I haven’t really improved at this which is unfortunate. And I likely won’t improve in the future due to personal preference. 🙁
Over the course of the year I learnt the importance of spark notes and how it is helpful but will get you 0/12 on a quiz. I also learnt what depression feels like after doing my IO, I’ve recovered though.
Overall year was cool. I liked the movies.
After watching the movie and reading the book Pygmalion I was quite surprised. I had actually watched a newer rendition of the movie three years ago but at the time I didn’t know it was Pygmalion. Previously, I had heard of the tale of Pygmalion, but the movie and book do not feel like the same thing. I understand, from a metaphorical perspective, how Higgins shaped Eliza and turned her into a “lady”, similar to how Pygmalion shaped Galatea. However, I find that there aren’t many other similarities. Overall, I can see how they are both Pygmalion but I don’t think there is a strong enough connection to call them the same thing.
A question that was raised for me when reading and watching was did men share similar moralities and ideas to Higgins? We do not have too many different male opinions in Pygmalion because there aren’t many significant characters in total. One example of a man having somewhat similar ideas was Colonel Pickering, he was intrigued by the idea of the bet and was fully supporting of it. However, he did not share the same morals as Higgins, we can see this when he would openly oppose Higgins insults to Eliza and made sure she was treated right. This is just one example of another man but I was wondering if other men were like this. It also made me think if the way people treated each other depended on their own class, and the class of others.
Something I liked and disliked at the same time was the dialogue between Higgins and Eliza. I didn’t like the constant the verbal abuse from Higgins to Eliza, but I also didn’t like some of Eliza’s noises and annoying proclamations. The part of it that I liked was the development of it. As Eliza became more and more educated she was able to hold her own in their conversations and a was able to withstand some of Higgins verbal jousts. I thought this was very clever, especially as a way to show Eliza’s progression to becoming a “Lady”.
Overall, I enjoyed this book/movie, it was entertaining and delivered a message about outer appearance vs inner personality similar to A Doll’s House. I make this comparison because at the time if you were born into a certain social class that would be your class and no matter what happened you would be seen as that class. However, Eliza’s transformation shows us that it is what’s on the inside that counts. Despite the fact that I don’t think it should be called Pygmalion I would recommend someone watch this, and read if they want but I think in this rare case the movie is better.
Although I’ve never felt like I was a doll being played with by other people, I am able to relate to many of the situations Nora faced. I often feel that my life is controlled by others with good intent, but who don’t respect what I want. The main place I find this is with education, I am constantly being pushed and persuaded by both my school and my parents to do things that I’m not sure I even want to do. But each time they will say that it is what I want or need. This is minor compared to what Nora faced but I do sometimes feel like quitting everything and just figuring things out for myself. I won’t of course, because unlike Nora what I face is actually good for me, but it just feels similar.
I can also relate to Nora’s ‘awakening’ scene, where she all of a sudden knows what she wants and snaps from childish to serious in an instant. I experienced this myself in almost an identical way but instead of with love it was with friendship. I was friends with someone for a long time but there were many problems going on that I didn’t even realize. It was somewhat toxic even, but I was ignorant to it because we both still liked each other and neither of us had direct problems with each other. I had my awakening moment when I separated schools with them and all of a sudden I realized that they weren’t the right friend for me. It wasn’t that I stopped liking them, and even now I still remember that friendship positively, but I was better off without it.
Something I really enjoyed with the play was modern the style seemed. The extreme realism mixed with the internal thoughts and common dialogue made it feel like a modern day film and I found myself engaged all the way through to the end. The use of sound and imagery is exactly like that of a modern film and it is easy to follow, unlike the Shakespearean play we just read.
Similarly, I like the contrast of this literature piece compared to our previous ones. Even if it is not always the main theme there is always sexist oppression. However, in this one it is different when Nora has a girl boss moment and stands up for herself by leaving. This is likely why there was such an intense reaction from the public when this play was written because it went against all the norms. This idea of a woman walking out is very common nowadays and I think it was Ibsen who first introduced it. This only adds to the modern feeling of the play, because something like this was not possible back then, but is possible now.
Overall, I really enjoyed this play and look forward to both watching the movie version of it, and looking at similar pieces of literature. I know it is not mandatory but I also found myself starting another of Ibsen’s plays Ghost. A Doll’s House has been my favourite piece of literature we’ve looked at so far and would recommend to anyone who did plot summaries to go back and read it.
The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare can be found as a play or a movie, and has hundreds of different interpretations. In each adaptation one common theme remains: Outward appearances do not always reflect the truth and can often be deceiving. I found this both extremely interesting, and extremely relatable, because even though Shakespeare lived 400 years ago we can still see this theme in our everyday lives. On a large public scale it can be seen in politics, and on a smaller more personally relatable scale I experience it with meeting people online. I really liked seeing this because it shows that really nothing much has changed, and I like to think that even 400 years before Shakespeare’s time it was the same.
Another thing I really enjoyed was contrasting what was written by Shakespeare himself, and what Micheal Radford directed in his screenplay. If I were to have only experienced one of the variations I would not get as rich an experience as I did. I find Radford’s interpretation very interesting because as Mr. MacKnight says: “Books raise questions”. Which is true in the case of Shakespeare’s take, but Radford’s seems to answer those questions for us. For example, in the original, it is unclear as to if Bassanio and Antonio are homosexual. But in Radford’s edition he clearly indicates that there is another type of love there.
Similarly, we see more of how interpretation changes the way a story is with Shylock’s conversion to Christianity. Back when the play was written it would be clear that Shylock would be the bad guy and would go through all these terrible things to in the end find salvation in Christianity. This would be in line with the beliefs of the Christian population at the time, but would seem pretty terrible to us. So instead we see his forced conversion to Christianity as a punishment. I of course agree with the modern take but I enjoyed how by changing the way you interpret the story will completely.
In the end I really enjoyed reading and watching both things because it made me realize that I actually do like Shakespeare. All my life before I thought Shakespeare was some old bum who spoke nonsense but now that I can understand it better, I can appreciate the great story he writes. I never thought I would say this but I wish they would make more Shakespeare plays into movies. Luckily, Steven Spielberg is remastering West Side Story which I will most likely watch.
After finishing the selected Langston Hughes’s poems in our class my perspective of the Harlem Renaissance has broadened greatly. The Harlem Renaissance is a topic that I knew about from previous schooling, however, my knowledge of it was relatively shallow. I know of many arts produced at that time but none have helped me understand it as much as Hughes’s poetry. Hughes wrote poetry about the real world in each of the poems even if it was disguised as a hypothetical situation. His poetry was written to everyone with poems like The Negro Speaks of Rivers, and Negro written to the African American population. Poems like Memo to Non-White Peoples, and Deferred written to the privileged White population. And, poems like Let America be America Again, and Life is Fine to everyone in between.
Furthermore, to understand many of Hughes’s poems you need a lot of background information. So, when reading the poems I would often have to research many concepts in the poem. This only further broadened my knowledge about the era, and helped me understand some of the other arts I knew from the time a lot better. With his long timeline of writing poems we also get to see how the ideas of the Harlem Renaissance changed over time.
Similarly, we can see Hughes’s ideas changing as he broadened the topics he would write about in his later years. His early poems being specifically about the African American population’s problems, while his later poems included more minorities and under privileged populations. We also see the influence of other writers build on him. The most significant influence being Walt Whitman. We see Whitman’s influence in poems like Harlem  where his tone is matched to what would be expected from Whitman. In his later poems such as Goodbye Christ, or Paper for English B where he writes from his perspective which he never used to.
The poems we read even helped me understand some modern media better. For example, from reading the poems I can understand more modern music made by artists such as the Wutang Clang, N.W.A, or 2pac better. These artist’s music is similar to many of Hughes’s poems because even though the message is not always clear in the different mediums they both relate to problems in the world. These different artists all have something in common in their art, which is the message they intend to deliver. However, before reading the poems off Hughes I did not always understand that. In short the poems of Hughes have not only helped my understand what things were like back in his days, but also to understand more modern media, as some people may have viewed the work of Hughes to be ahead of his time. This concept of timelessness in Hughes’s poems is what makes his poems still a topic of discussion in the modern era. His poems inspire people of all colours every day and will continue to do so long into the future.
When reading The Odyssey, by Homer, I appreciated Homer’s use of minor characters used to build the identity of the major characters. He does this often in his books; and a time I could appreciate it was with Nausikaa. She is a very significant character to the story’s plot, but one of her main purposes is to show all the traits of Odysseus. We see his charm and wit as he wins her over, and then we see his planning and foresight as he uses her to make a plan to get himself home. This is just one of the ways that Homer uses his clever technique.
However, not everything in the Odyssey was as clever and interesting as that. For example, the first three books of the Odyssey include no such characters as well as being extremely boring in their content. The first three books are crucial to set up the whole ending of the story; but the same amount of content could have been written in two less books. This is unenjoyable because it sets a boring mood for the rest of the story. Which, for the first ten books I couldn’t get rid of as I was just expecting them to be boring. If Homer had written a shorter beginning to the story I would have enjoyed it significantly more.
On the other hand, I was surprised by how stupid Odysseus seemed to be for the ‘smartest mortal to ever live’ by a margin of two. When I say stupid I don’t mean dull, witless, or useless. What I mean is that Odysseus would often have his journey prolonged from things that wouldn’t make sense to someone whose only want was to make it home. Some of the things that prolonged Odysseus were his meaningless trips on to various islands that would often results in trouble. I think the reason Homer makes Odysseus like this is as a satirical joke at how stupid men can be. When I realized this I was less surprised and understood the joke more, however, it was still surprising.
At this time I knew, that this merry place blanketed in snow was the mall; and that Santa, jolly in his ways, and also Buddy elf of Santa, were cozy and warm; and that Oliver, Emma, Harry, Thomas, and David, tots of the waiting parents, were giddy yet composed; and that the spectacular landscape beyond the scene, crossed with trees and bells and wreathes, with rowdy shoppers crowding through, was the gates; and that the red and white line beyond, was candy cane lane; and that the distant candy hut from which shouts of joy came, was Santa’s; and that the mound of Christmas joy taking in the season and beginning to smile, was me.
A jolly man, all in soft red, with a great sack on his shoulder. A man with a hat, and with black boots, and with a pipe in his mouth. A man who had been dusted in soot, and powdered by snow, and fattened by cookies, and bit by frost, and warmed by smoke, and framed by beard; who bounced, and laughed, and beamed, and smoked; and whose sleigh jingled as he flew through the night.
In the play Antigone, by Sophocles, we admire Antigone and her actions because she is, among other characteristics, the courageous person we all wish to be. Courage is often seen as the most important human characteristic by many famous philosophers. For example, Aristotle states that:
Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others. -Aristotle
An example in the book where we can see Antigone’s true courage (true courage being courage with no personal gain or non-moral justification) is when Antigone openly defies the law to do what is right, and when confronted by Creon (the king), she says,
I did it. I don’t deny a thing… These laws–I was not about to break them, not out of fear of some man’s wounded pride, and face retribution of the gods. Die I must, I’ve known it all my life. [p. 81 ln. 492, and p.82 ln. 509-513]
We can see true courage here, specifically when she says, “I don’t deny a thing” because she leaves herself defenceless to all the consequences. In conclusion, Antigone embodies the most important human characteristic of courage by not only defying law and risking her life to do what is right but by also facing the consequences.
Oedipus the King, by Sophocles was, in the beginning, very puzzling to me, because I wondered how anyone in today’s world could relate to the characters in Oedipus in any way. Something that Mr.MacKnight had been hinting at throughout our class discussions. The more I read, however, the more I understood how writing analysts made the comparisons from Oedpius to modern mankind. It’s not common, of course, for someone in today’s world to kill their father and marry their mother along with all the other treachery Oedipus commits, but those are simply exaggerated metaphors for things we do see in today’s world. The largest piece of Oedipus that carries over into the modern era is his infamous stubborn unwillingness to see the truth (ignorance) and short temper. We see subtly this trait in Oedipus throughout the play but a time when it is clear is when Oedipus is speaking to a messenger from Corinth,
Oedipus: “What are you saying–Polybus was not my father?” Messenger: “No more than I am. He and I are equals.” Oedipus: “My father–how can my father equal nothing? You’re nothing to me!”
From this we can see both his ignorance, as he fails to understand he was adopted, and his fiery temper, as he lashes out at the messenger for simply trying to deliver the truth. I can see this in my life, specifically through one of my friends, who in math class will occasionally get a question wrong and instead of admitting to the mistake and correcting it they will defend their answer, thinking it’s the truth even when it’s not, as well as lashing out often with insults regarding my math. In conclusion many traits of Oedipus, including temper and ignorance can unfortunately be seen in our world today.
Enough is Enough, by Laura Bates, is a blog article about sexism related issues, such as consent and image, that Bates along with many other blog users have experienced. Bates summarizes these accounts in her article explaining how this sexism happens to almost every woman, in almost every situation, and at any age. Bates also touched on the negligence and denial regarding sexism saying how it wasn’t just men who believed that sexism was no longer an issue but also a very significant portion of women. Bates found that the type of sexism varied with age, with women around 18 and above facing a world with less opportunities and more direct sexual abuse, and women 18 and below facing a world with a more passive version of sexual abuse (verbal) and appearance discrimination; there were, however, some sexist issues found throughout all ages of women and that had to do with consent. Her main point through her article is that “enough is enough” and that people need to change, not through any constitution or big change in the law, but change the way they think. This is a very powerful and progressive opinion especially for the time it was written, however, its message is important and has inspired many women to stand up against oppressive sexism both major and minor.